Gopher tortoises in Gainesville FL - What to do if you find one?

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish Realtors BK3216615

Gopher tortoises in Gainesville FL - What to do if you find one?


I have always wanted to use the phrase "Do not try this at home" but never really had a chance to. Until now.

Let me explain.

One of the things that I love the MOST about living in Gainesville FL is all of the wildlife!  Frogs, toads, anole lizards, and snakes abound. Every night I hear an owl hooting in our backyard.  Gainesville FL is a GREAT place to live especially if you love the outdoors.

So imagine my unbounded joy when I discovered this cute little gopher tortoise on a walk around our Haile Plantation neighborhood.

Now, I had seen one of his relatives crushed to bits in the road just a week before...and when I saw this dude munching on grass close to the same spot where his cousin had been obliterated, I just had to act.

I picked him up and brought him back to our neighborhood a couple of blocks away, thrilled that I'd saved his life and excited to get a few up close and personal moments on FlipVideo with him.

Seems like a pretty innocent video, no? Well, apparently, not so much. After I posted it to YouTube I got a couple of commenters who said that gopher tortoises are a threatened species and by moving him like this I was breaking the law.


So, to keep you from making the same mistake I thought I should post some info here about what you should do if you find a gopher tortoise flirting with disaster on the side of the road in Gainesville FL.

Here's what the Florida Wildlife Commission says to do if you find a gopher tortoise in the road:

"It is illegal to posses or relocate a tortoise without a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Although a wildlife officer would not write you a citation for helping a tortoise across a busy road, picking up a tortoise and taking it to a new location is a violation law. If you do see a tortoise in the road and help it across, be sure to move it across the road in the direction it was heading as the tortoise has a burrow (home) nearby and needs that home to survive. Also remember, moving it (especially during cold weather) could stress or even kill it. Moving tortoises can also spread disease to other tortoise populations. These animals have a strong instinct to return to their original burrow and, if relocated down the road, will likely return to where you first found them."

I felt so bad when I realized that by "rescuing" this gopher tortoise I may have put his life in danger anyway.

Which was not my plan at all.

Hope this info comes in handy for gopher tortoise rescuers in Gainesville.  I know I'll keep it in mind if I ever find another gopher tortoise flirting with disaster!

Posted by



Coleen DeGroff, MBA - REALTOR

eXp Realty

Moving to Gainesville FL?  Want to learn about Gainesville life?

Check out Haile Plantation Real Estate for neighborhood videos, free Gainesville FL home search, and info on things to see and do in and around Gainesville Florida.



Ten percent of everything I make is donated to the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation so we can build a full-service, state-of-the-art children's hospital for our kids.


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Sheldon Neal
Bergen County, NJ - RE/MAX Real Estate Limited - Maywood, NJ
That British Agent Bergen County NJ

Aw he's a cute little guy - and nice little video sending him back into the wild !

Sep 07, 2010 01:48 PM #1
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles real estate concierge services

He is adorable.  Did you relocate him back from whence he came?

Sep 07, 2010 04:27 PM #2
Coleen DeGroff
Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish Realtors - Gainesville, FL
Haile Plantation Real Estate - Gainesville FL

Hi Sheldon - I know! Isn't he adorable??  Glad you liked the video. Thanks for stopping by.

Hi Jane - I know! I never thought a tortoise could be so gosh darned cute!  I didn't relocate him back to where I found him because by the time I learned that's what I should have done he had already vamoosed.  I did see a cute little tortoise in our neighborhood wandering around a couple of weeks later....maybe that was him....I have no idea. If I ever find a death-seeking tortoise again hanging about on the side of the road I'll just move him faaar away from the road, back to the direction he'd most likely come from...but won't be taking any back to my house.

Sep 08, 2010 03:17 AM #3
Marie Haydock
Evergreen Global Homes & Land | RSVP Real Estate - Redmond, WA
Simplifying Real Estate
I'm a big fan of turtles and tortoises myself. That's a very healthy, good looking tortoise you have in that video. :) I actually have a tortoise that a seller client gave me last year, since he was moving out of the area. I've also seen a lot of gopher tortoises during the 5 years I lived in Georgia. Yep, we're not supposed to take them home. It's always so sad to see them hurt or killed by the side of the road, though. So, I freely admit that I BREAK FOR TORTOISES! My husband and I have often stopped the car when we've seen tortoises on the road and helped them across the street.
Sep 09, 2010 02:45 PM #4
Coleen DeGroff
Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish Realtors - Gainesville, FL
Haile Plantation Real Estate - Gainesville FL

Hi Marie - High five from one tortoise rescuer to another!  :)  Thanks for stopping by.

Sep 09, 2010 04:42 PM #5
Todd Clark
eXp Realty LLC - Tigard, OR
Principle Broker Oregon

Far as I'm concerned, you saved the little guys life. I've never understood why you can't even move an endangered species a few hundred feet to save its life.

Sep 27, 2010 05:49 AM #6
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services
Hello Coleen, I must agree with Sheldon and Jane that the gopher tortoise you found is adorable and cute. Liked the short video as well. Thank your for sharing.
Apr 13, 2013 07:17 PM #7
Erika Rogers
Red Rock Real Estate ~ Southern Utah's Largest Independent Brokerage - Saint George, UT
St George Utah Real Estate & Relocation Specialist
Job well done Coleen, Thank you for sharing  with us  on what one should do if we find a gopher tortoise flirting with disaster on the side of the road. Very informative. All the best!
Apr 22, 2013 08:49 PM #8
Pat and Ed Okenica
DRAKE REALTY Lake Oconee Ga - Greensboro, GA
Lake Oconee Ga Real Estate
Hi Coleen, Loved the short video about the gopher tortoise.  Now we know that it is illegal to posses or relocate a tortoise without a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Thank you for sharing and keep up the good work.
Apr 22, 2013 09:01 PM #9
Petra Norris
Lakeland Real Estate Group, Inc. - Lakeland, FL
Realtor, Lakeland FL Homes for Sale
Hi Coleen, this is a good way of letting the public specially in the state of Florida that relocating a gopher tortoise is illegal unless one has permission from the Florida Wildlife Commission. However, one can always assist and make sure the tortoise can make it safely across the road. 
Apr 22, 2013 11:40 PM #10
Melissa Muse Wiggans
Real Estate Muses - San Antonio, TX
CRS, GRI, ABR - Real Estate Muses
I fell in love with the gopher tortoise on your video Coleen. Thank you for sharing and as far as you are concern, your intention is to help and save the cute little fellow. Kudos to that!
Apr 22, 2013 11:50 PM #11
Waynette Hoover Araj
Keller Williams Realty - Asheboro, NC
Connecting your Dreams with the Right Real Estate
Liked this article about your personal encounter with one of Florida's threatened specie, the gopher tortoise. This will definitely come in handy for gopher tortoise rescuers in Gainesville. All the best!
Apr 22, 2013 11:57 PM #12
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Coleen DeGroff

Haile Plantation Real Estate - Gainesville FL
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